She’s Gotta Have It

tn_shesgottahaveitrookies-indie“A nice lady doesn’t go humping from bed to bed.”

I think the last time I saw SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT might’ve been in a theater in 1989. I remember when DO THE RIGHT THING came out one of the theaters here did a double feature of this and SCHOOL DAZE. So I was just learning who Spike Lee was and what he was all about.

All this time later it’s kinda crazy to go back to his DIY jointational debut. It’s the work of a young man trying to prove himself, show his style and stretch his budget while also saying something about relationships between men and women. As much as you can anyway when you’re 28 years old.

It’s in black and white. He plays one of the main characters. His sister Joie is in it (which is her doing him a favor, because she gives the most natural performance in the movie). His dad Bill did the score. It’s not about race, and I don’t think there are even any white people in it. And though you could say it started the black film movement that ended up being mostly about gangs and crime (BOYZ N THE HOOD, MENACE II SOCIETY, STRAIGHT OUT OF BROOKLYN) it has no guns or fights in it. (The end credits also boast that there were no drugs or jheri curls in the movie.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Mercenaries

tn_mercenariesThere are innumerable dreams to which humanity aspires: feeding the hungry, building racial harmony, inventing comfortable shoes that also look cool, ending war, etc. Of these goals, the one we’ve come closest to achieving is “a female EXPENDABLES.” But it takes small steps to make big ones.

This was a concept that guys like us were already discussing and backseat casting before the movie news told us it was really in the works. In fact there are two such movies still in development. There’s the one from the producers of the male EXPENDABLES. It was announced before Rowdy Ronda Rousey was in part 3, so I don’t know if they plan to spin off from her character or not. From the sound of it it might not be worthy of a woman that tough. They’re calling it “EXPENDABELLES” and it’s from the director and the writers of LEGALLY BLOND. It was reported that they were trying to get Naomi Watts, Kate Beckinsale, Marcia Gay Harden, Li Bingbing and Mila Kunis. Sigourney Weaver turned it down. I’m gonna go ahead and write this one off.

The other one is from Adi Shankar, the face-paint wearing producer of DREDD and those “bootleg universe” shorts like Joseph Kahn’s POWER/RANGERS. This one reportedly stars Gina Carano (HAYWIRE, FURIOUS 6), Katee Sackhoff (RIDDICK) and maybe Sharni Vinson (YOU’RE NEXT, STEP UP 3), which is a promising start.

But leave it to Asylum, the studio that brought us SHARKNADO and I AM OMEGA, to have theirs already done and released before the other two even settle their casting. Admittedly this DTV female mercenary squad is light on marquee names, but it’s a good team. They have Zoë Bell (DEATH PROOF, THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS, GAME OF DEATH), Kristanna Loken (TERMINATOR 3, S.W.A.T.: FIREFIGHT), Vivica A. Fox (KILL BILL, THE HARD CORPS, BLAST, SET IT OFF), and, uh, Nicole Bilderback (CLUELESS, BRING IT ON). (read the rest of this shit…)

Goyokin

tn_goyokinGOYOKIN is the seventh movie from Hideo Gosha, the director who started with THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI and SWORD OF THE BEAST. So he’d been around a bit by that point. It was 1969, the hippie era over here, but questioning authority was part of the samurai movie tradition anyway. The heroes follow a strict code and usually have to deal with some government asshole trying to pervert it. They struggle when there’s a discrepancy between following the rules and doing the right thing. And they always have differing interpretations of what those two things are. But this one seems particularly fitting for a couple summers after the summer of love, because it’s about one man who feels he must stand up against the power structure to stop an atrocity.

It starts with a mysterious incident. A girl returns home to her village to find that everyone has disappeared. Nobody there but her and the crows. They blame it on a curse called the Kamikakushi, but in fact it was a government sanctioned massacre. Some Waco shit. The Saido province feels they have to steal a shipment of gold in order to pay their taxes and survive, and they kill the local fishermen so there aren’t any witnesses. They feel it’s a necessary sacrifice for the greater good.

Three years later the ronin Magobei (Tatsuya Nakadai, YOJIMBO, THE SWORD OF DOOM, RAN) still regrets not trying to stop the slaughter. His brother-in-law Tatewaki (Tetsuro Tanba, THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI, RIKI-OH), the guy in charge, vowed to never do it again. But when assassins come to kill Magobei (they fail) he finds out it’s a precursor to another one. Clearly this stolen gold economics is not very sustainable in my opinion.

Magobei’s not gonna make the same mistake he made last time. He’s gotta stop this massacre or die trying. So he puts on his cool hat and starts walking. (read the rest of this shit…)

Run All Night

tn_runallnightAlthough he’d already done HOUSE OF WAX and GOAL II: LIVING THE DREAM, it was ORPHAN that brought director Jaume Collet-Serra to my attention. I gotta admire a director whose movie I go to thinking I’m gonna be all ironical on it and then it defeats me with its audacity and genuine cleverness. So far that’s the height of his output, but I keep going back.

I guess I’d be watching them anyway, because his ORPHAN follow up has been three Liam Neeson vehicles in a row. UNKNOWN was a somewhat forgettable twisty thriller with some good touches here and there. Apparently I forgot to even post a review of it, but the part I remember liking best was some awkwardness between Neeson and Diane Kruger where they laugh because they’re in her small apartment and hear sex noises from next door, and that turns out to be set-up that her walls are thin enough for him to throw a guy through. NON-STOP was more my speed, a fun take on a confined-location-high-concept with some pretty interesting political subtext. Now the third one, RUN ALL NIGHT, takes the collaboration in a different direction. There’s less emphasis on the thrillery gimmicks and more on the character drama.

Oh, hey, this might explain it: it’s a screenplay by Brad Ingelsby, the guy that wrote OUT OF THE FURNACE. That’s another movie that uses badass genre elements but is more interested in exploring relationships than in satisfying expectations. (Though this one does have shootouts and car crashes.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Le Dernier Combat

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Yeah, I know, I’m mostly talking about LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL here. And I respect him as a prolific b-action producer. So sue me.

tn_derniercombatLE DERNIER COMBAT (or THE FINAL BATTLE) is Luc Besson’s first feature, and apparently he was pretty different in 1983. This is a black and white post-apocalypse movie and in contrast to all the international co-production action vehicles he’s been writing with Robert Mark Kamen for so many years it’s very much not high concept. It has no hook.

It also has no talking. I’m not sure if whatever ended civilization as we know it also removed everyone’s ability to speak, or if just nobody in this story bothers to ever do it. But this is one Besson movie where you can’t say the dialogue is bad.

It mostly follows “The Man” (Pierre Jolivet, also co-writer and producer and a prolific director in his own right), sort of a goofball taking shelter from the post-apocalypse in an office building with not too bad of a set up. He has a plant, some furniture, an oven, a cassette deck, a mattress, plenty of space if he ever wants to take up tai chi or breakdancing or anything like that. It’s pretty dusty in there, though. The movie opens panning through his living space and there’s some kind of panting you can hear and you see his naked legs and then you see that he’s humping an inflatable sex doll. Not exactly an iconic entrance like Mad Max or somebody. (read the rest of this shit…)

Desert Kickboxer

tn_desertkickboxerrookiesIsaac Florentine’s first feature DESERT KICKBOXER is not a remake of KICKBOXER that takes place in a more arid climate. It’s also not DESSERT KICKBOXER. That would be weird, and I’m not sure what it would be about. No, this one is just a story about a kickboxer who lives in the desert. Actually I doubt he even considers himself a kickboxer anymore. In a hazy, dreamlike prologue he kills a man in the ring. If this was KICKBOXER he’d be the bad guy, and his dead opponent’s brother would come after him for revenge. Since it’s not, he feels bad about it and is a loner living in his deceased father’s trailer in the middle of nowhere.

His name is Hawk, and I bet you can guess what that means. Yep, he’s that archetype “The Half Breed,” like Billy Jack, or Elvis in FLAMING STAR, or Bronson in CHINO, or the Daywalker. He has all of the white man’s strengths, none of his weaknesses. But he never quite fits in either world. He’s never fully accepted on the reservation, probly called racist slurs by some white people, impressive to others because of his exotic wisdom. And as far as I know the actor playing him is a white guy. He’s John Haymes Newton, best known for playing Superboy in the late ’80s TV series of the same name.

When we first meet Hawk he’s some sort of deputized border guard badass beating up drug smugglers, but he’s pissed when he finds out it’s just pot they’re smuggling, and tells the sheriff – an old colleague of his dad, of course – that he’s not doing this shit anymore. Pretty progressive. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shout out to Clubside Chris

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Everyone please send some extra special good vibes in the direction of our friend Clubside Chris, the Technical Expert (see photo) of outlawvern.com. I’ve learned from social media that he’s in the hospital. It sounds like he’s gonna be okay, but he’s going through a huge ordeal and hopefully it won’t embarrass him if I take this opportunity to show some appreciation for all that he’s done for me.

If you don’t know the story, Clubside Chris is the guy who years ago decided to register outlawvern.com and give it to me because he couldn’t stand to see my important academic works sitting on a shitty Geocities sight. I actually turned him down because I had some notion about creating profound works that only the truly enlightened would be able to read because they would overlook that it looked like crap and was on a free sight that normal humans abandoned like 10 years earlier. A couple years after his kind offer my crappy sight went kaput and I contacted him (convinced he was offended that I turned him down before) and he was generous enough to help me out.

At my weirdo request he went through alot of trouble to create a WordPress template that would mimic the crappy look of my Geocities sight. And when I got sick of that (and after it possibly gave one poor guy a seizure) he made this nicer looking one we use today. He also made a forum after you guys kept requesting it. So Paul and alot of spambots owe him gratitude for that.

Chris is also the guy who convinced me to start posting my links on Twitter and Facebook. I thought the whole idea of Twitter was ridiculous, but he convinced me to give it a fair shot, and… whoops. Sometimes when I’m procrastinating from writing I wish I wasn’t so addicted to it, but it has really helped me to bring in more readers and stay in touch with people and stuff.

Chris continues to keep the sight operating and answer my ignorant questions when I have them. The most insane part of all is that he’s done it all for free, in fact at a loss. It’s incredible how much he’s done for me and for everyone who likes to read my reviews and for the community here. I also sometimes get the impression my politics can be offensive to him, and yet he’s never ditched me over it. He is a good guy. Thank you Chris.

Hard Times

tn_hardtimesrookiesWalter Hill’s HARD TIMES could almost be a western or a samurai movie, but it happens to be a bareknuckle brawler movie instead. In fact I think it’s the template for my beloved sub-genre of the underground fight circuit movie. Charles Bronson as a guy named Chaney wanders into town (New Orleans circa 1933) on the back of a train. He’s so broke he can’t afford a coffee refill, but he sees a bunch of guys going into a warehouse across the street and he decides to follow them in. Turns out they’re there to gamble on a bare knuckle fight.

Did Chaney know that’s what was going on? Did he come here looking for it? Is this his vocation? Or does he just happen to notice this is going on and need the work? That would be pretty lucky for him, since he happens to be really fuckin good at it. But this is Charles Bronson we’re talking about. I’m sure he’d be the best at whatever manly job was available.

We don’t know what his deal is, but he approaches Speed (James Coburn), the manager of the losing fighter, and convinces him to get him a fight. Speed has no faith in him, but he’s got nothing to lose because Chaney has a little wad of life savings to put up the bet himself.  There’s a big buildup as everyone scoffs at him and then, as in so many of this genre later on (BLOOD AND BONE, NEVER BACK DOWN, DIGGSTOWN, ONG-BAK, LIONHEART, UNLEASHED [suggest others in the comments and I will add them to the list, I know there’s a million of ’em]), he K.O.s the guy in one blow. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sanshiro Sugata

tn_sanshirosugatarookiesAkira Kurosawa’s directorial debut SANSHIRO SUGATA, a.k.a. JUDO SAGA, is the judo saga of Sanshiro Sugata (Susumu Fujita, MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA). When we first meet Sanshiro he’s a stranger wandering into town, but he’s not a badass like our friend in YOJIMBO. He’s wide-eyed and naive and looking for a jujitsu teacher. Some locals point him to the nearby school of the instructor Momma (Yoshio Kosugi, 47 SAMURAI) where they’re sitting around complaining about their rival “Yano of the Shudokan” (Denjiro Okochi), who’s been calling jujitsu “judo” and getting alot of attention for it. I imagine they feel about this kind of like I felt when I first heard the word “blog,” or like we as a society feel when some ad tries to convince us that pizza can just be called “‘za.”

They’re worried this word-coiner Yano is gonna get the gig they want instructing the police force, so they’re gonna ambush him tonight to “teach him a lesson,” and they let the new kid Sanshiro come along to see how fucking awesome these guys are that he’s about to learn from.

They surprise Yano on the dock and one by one they run at him and get tossed into the water. This being a night scene in black and white it’s really striking and sometimes looks like he’s tossing them into a black void. Once he’s gotten Momma into an armlock and made him beg to be killed to hide his shame of being defeated by a scoundrel, Sanshiro is like “You know what, maybe this Yano would have a better curriculum” and next thing you know he’s pulling the guy’s rickshaw back to his school.
(read the rest of this shit…)

The Jericho Mile

tn_jerichomilerookiesIf you count TV movies – and I do – JERICHO MILE is Michael Mann’s directivational debut. It’s not as cinematic as his later big, wide movies, but it’s from the days when TV movies were legit enough to play theatrically overseas. It also stood out from other TV at the time, winning Emmies for writing, lead actor (over Kurt Russell in ELVIS!) and film editing for a limited series or special, and a Director’s Guild Award for “Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Special/Movies for TV/Actuality.” (?)

It’s a prison movie, and you know Mann isn’t gonna want to soften that up. I mean, it’s TV so we don’t get any profanity, racial slurs or rape, but it’s still got a gritty feel because it was filmed in Folsom with the real inmates all around, and plenty of establishing montages that are clearly just documentary footage. You can definitely tell that some of the supporting players are real cons. I wasn’t surprised when I read that Mann had to negotiate for each of the race gangs (white, black and Latin) to have representatives on screen and vow to prevent any race wars or riots during filming so the production wouldn’t be kicked out. I mean obviously it’s an unwritten rule on pretty much all movie sets that the actors should not be involved in any race wars. But I still give them credit for not having one. Apparently there were a bunch of stabbings, one fatal, but those were allowed. (read the rest of this shit…)